What a Teacher Wants You to Know During the Pandemic

Teachers all over America and the world are worried about our students right now.

Sure, we hope they are reading and doing some mathematical reasoning, asking questions and looking for answers, finding ways to be creative and productive, but that’s not our biggest concern. 

I suspect like a lot of my colleagues, I’m worried about one student in particular who was starting to make good progress in school on some important foundational skills, but now, abruptly, the support and reinforcement of those skills has dropped away. Really, even more than her academic learning, I’m worried she’s not getting social support, I’m worried about her emotional health, and whether she’s getting her physical needs of food, warmth, and comfort met. These are things schools provide to our students every day, and that are of highest importance right now: stability, reassurance, physical care. I cannot guarantee any of those things for my students right now, and that leaves me feeling worried.

I am trying to stay connected to my students on a daily basis; I’m writing letters to them, messaging their parents with ideas to keep their kids engaged and learning, and trying out a new digital platform for direct video interaction. I’ve heard back from a handful of them– the kids whose parents regularly return permission slips, chaperone field trips, the parents who reach out with questions about their children and have the energy and privilege to stay involved in their kids’ school experience – these are the families who are taking me up on the interaction. 

The majority of my students’ families are doing their own thing right now.

Some kids’ families don’t have access to technology or even internet service.

Some caregivers may be uncomfortable sitting down with their child to work on the skills they’ve been learning (all those videos of parents lamenting Common Core math are obviously going viral for a reason.) Some parents may be working one or two jobs just to put food on the table.

For yet others, maybe school work isn’t their top priority right now. And that’s ok. The kids will be fine without “school at home” during this time.

My own four children chafe at being asked to think deeply about a book they are reading, or to explain their work on math problems to me. My checking on the work their teachers have sent home is an intrusion on what is usually “their” business, especially for my two high schoolers. My third grader told me just today that it would be easier if I just wasn’t a teacher! 

So I’ve backed off. I’m not assigning them any work; I’m checking in with them to see if they need help with what their teachers have sent, and I expect them to read every day, practice their musical instruments, and PLAY together. We’ve been playing board games, card games, learning new skills in the kitchen, trying out craft ideas, and going outside.

My kids don’t need me to be their teacher. They need me to be their mom.

Right now, the most important thing I can do is be here, listen, offer reassurance, and maintain our routines as much as possible. They need consistency, love, and support. That’s what your kids need, too. Trying to become their teacher during this uncertain time in addition to taking care of them, working from home, worrying about paying bills, and staying healthy is just too much. 

Too much stress, too much pressure, and way too much to expect from yourself. Your children are learning, I promise. They are learning by watching you: how to deal with unexpected change, how to communicate their thoughts and feelings, how to be a part of a team as you work together to make dinner, clean up, wash all the things, and get ready to do it again the next day. And if they spend more time than usual playing video games or watching movies…well, that too will be ok in the end.

When this crisis passes, our schools will be ready.

We will open our doors and our arms to your children again, and we will take stock of where we are and what the kids need. Together, the students and educational team (teachers, administrators, support staff) will process this event and we’ll share what we’ve learned. 

We will check in on each student and assess how we can best support them. We will meet each child where they are, as we always do, and develop and implement plans to encourage and support their learning with all of the tools and knowledge at our disposal. My student who needs that intensive academic support each day? She’ll be fine, and I will adjust my plans for her to regain any progress that may have been lost. She’s smart and curious and she loves math and science, and I know I can build on that.

Your kids will be ok. You will be ok. And what isn’t ok, we can work on together.